Friday, August 17, 2012

Defenders of Ulthuan by Graham McNeill

The high elves have long been the protectors of the Warhammer World, and their homeland of Ulthuan is known for the powerful magic that surrounds it. At the heart of Ulthuan lies a magical vortex, and the mages who created it remain trapped in a space out of time, endlessly working the spell that keeps the world from becoming a seething Realm of Chaos.
When Ulthuan comes under attack from the forces of Chaos and dark elves led by the Witch King and the hag sorceress, Morathi, the high elves must hold firm or face disastrous consequences. 

In Defenders of Ulthuan Graham McNeill tells the epic tale of the struggle between good and evil.

Readers, I read myself a Warhammer book (my first ever) and I loved it.  I had no prior knowledge of the world Defenders of Ulthuan is set in, before going in and reading this and although I was worried about it, I really shouldn't have been.  

I felt, as a noob reader and newcomer to the world, that I was 100% safe in Mr. McNeill's hands. The narrative is rich and evocative when it comes to describing the world of Ulthuan.  I was surprised, I admit it, by the strength of the world-building (noob, remember) and how much work went in to setting the scenes and laying the foundations of the story so that towards the end of the book, and the big reveal, you actually do feel the loss and horror of the betrayal. 

DoU easily stands on its own merits as a fantasy novel, regardless of it being a Warhammer fantasy title.  McNeill writes beautifully and goes out of his way to ensure that we recognise and realise how badly things are going for the elves and what the ultimate outcome will be.  

Something that took me by surprise is the (I initially thought) over-use of description.  It is superlative and as a reader it surprised me as I'm no longer used to writers getting away with using such rich descriptions for things - however, I understand why it was done and allowed in Sons of Ellyrion - it's all about building this majestically beautiful world, allowing us to see how definitive and unique it is, making us realise what's at stake here if Ulthuan ultimately falls to the dark elves.  Within the space of possibly two chapters, I got over my "this is overwritten" worries and just fell utterly in love with it and luxuriated in the richness of this world. 

I learned a lot from Graham McNeill in this book - from an aspiring writer's point of view I learned how to set up characters and how to set up bigger stakes through small incidents and how important identifying with characters really are.  From a reader's perspective, I relished the action, the betrayal, the horror and the sheer spectacle of where the story was leading.  

There are multiple points of view in the book but each one very much has it's own voice. Also, there is sexy times! and it it made me grin as it was described lightly and sweetly. *grins* 

I realise this review doesn't really make much sense...but this is what I'd like you take away from this: 

If, like me, you've wondered about reading the Warhammer fantasy titles, I don't think you have anything to worry about.  If you're a fantasy fan, you'll get the world and what's going on here.  The book keeps you paging.  Poor Mark had to sit through me going: OMG! This is happening and omg, do you think this guy is actually the bad buy and OMG! I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS PERSON DIES!  <- this is a sign of an involved reader and good writing.  

I have the second title: Sons of Ellyrion lined up to read in the next few weeks.  And I gotta know what happens.  No spoilers, please!  

Read an extract from Defenders of Ulthuan here

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